Day Three- Match Day 2
So sleep is now my greatest challenge. As it stands, we in Shanghai are 12 hours ahead of New York and 6 hours ahead of Capetown meaning that World Cup games begin as early as 7:30pm in the evening and run all the way until 4:30 in the morning. Last night was a somewhat failed experiment in nap-management. I gathered with some friends to watch South Africa v. Mexico and had a fantastic time. We split off after the first game and they went off to bed and I gambled on a brief nap that resulted in about 3 hours of sleep before waking up half way through Uruguay v. France.
Back in 2002, I managed to set my alarm for all of the most interesting games that popped up in the wee early hours of the morning. The rest were recorded on an ancient form of media known as video cassette. Now I find myself in a situation where only sheer will power shall push me through as we have no DVR available.
Onto the fluff!
Uruguay v. France- Reaction.
This actually finished as I thought it would. Two suffocating defenses making life miserable for attacking players. I missed the first half of this game as I swam in a lake of Marshmallow creme and partied with wood elves. The second half of the game was pretty interesting. Despite the 0-0 draw, the game wasn't lacking for action. Both France and Uruguay kept up a relentless pace. France has some real issues. The team sounds splintered. Their defense may hold, but they have shown a real lack of offensive creativity. Now, let's be clear, this is always the story with France. They go on lockdown on defense and just kind of get by on offense. This time that formula won't work.
USA v. England - Preview.
ACK! Please don't make me guess the result of this game. I am so blind for this one that I don't know if I can provide any kind of rational analysis. The US has a legitimate chance to win this game, and even if they draw they could still steal a point. and be in great position. Most experts are picking the US to advance regardless of the result tonight because they don't see Algeria and Slovenia as any real opposition. I call that poppycock, as Algeria will be much tougher than predicted, and the Eastern European teams are always a tough game.
England have everything to lose. They come in with even higher expectations than normal. In England, we find a group of players at the absolute height of their professional prowess. The problem for England is that the sum of the parts is rarely greater than the parts. They always have a good team, but for whatever reason they have issues galvanizing all of those wheels and cogs into the unstoppable machine they should be.
The United States: This is one of the younger teams in the cup with only 6 players returning from the 2006 squad. This team probably loves or dies with the defense. They have the midfield capability and the speed up front to score at least a couple of goals. The defense is where the holes lie. Throughout qualifying, they had issues keeping teams from scoring. Top back Oguchi Onyewu will be playing his first full competitive match since a knee injury in October. Bob Bradley has all the confidence in Guch, so we will trust the coach at this point. In addition, as per usual, the US have a fantastic goalkeeper. Tim Howard has constatntly proven himself to be one of the smartest, and most difficult goalkeepers to beat. Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are two of the best attacking midfielder's the US has ever had and promise to raise hell on England's back half. On the attack, we will probably have bruising forward Jozey Altidore, and Edson Buddle. Jozey is coming off a rough season of play with only a handful of goals to speak of, but he still represents a dangerous threat to defenses with his size and speed. Edson Buddle will be a question mark as he comes off really impressive performances in friendly games leading up to the cup and a positive form during the club season. It remains to be seen what he can do under the pressure of a big time international game.
Player to watch: Landon Donovan. Landon is the captain of the team and as he plays, so plays the team. The last four years saw Landon float from disinterested superstar to committed team captain. Donovan says personal problems lead to a lask of inspiration after 2006 , but now he is re-energized and ready to lead the US attack. Since the proof is in the pudding, we can look at his run at English Premier side Everton where he won player of the month for his brief loan spell there this past winter.
England: I guess you start and finish with Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United striker is one of the top five players in the world right now and is coming off a blistering regular season that saw him in unprecedented form. If the US is to have any chance of winning, it must mitigate Rooney's dangerous runs. The rest of the team is made up of some of the best players in the English Premier League. They are dangerous at every position on the field. The two big question marks are how they will do on defense. Their captain Rio Ferdinand is out for the entire Cup do to a knee injury in training. In addition, goalkeeper is a bit of a question mark as hot and cold keeper David James is also coming off his own injury concerns. England are quite rightly favored to go deep in the tournament
Player to watch: Take your pick, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, and on and on. Ultimately it is Wayne Rooney. If he plays like he did during the regular season, we are in for one of the best individual player World Cups in recent memory.
Best guess: My heart says US 2-1 England. My head says England 2-1 US. However, do not be shocked if England doesn't gel and the US calls on the amazing form that took them to second place in last year's confederations cup in South Africa when they beat Spain and were beating Brazil until a lackluster second half in the final.
Other match day 3 games:
South Korea v. Greece: I'm betting Korea's pace wears down Greece for a Korea 1-0 Greece finish.
Argentina v. Nigeria: Argentina might be the most enticing mystery of the tournament with the World's best player Lionel Messi leading the attack. No one quite knows how they will play as a unit though because coach (and Argentinian World Cup legend) Diego Maradona used more players than Baskin Robbins has ice creams. I'm guessing Argentina 3-1 Nigeria.